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10 Questions to ask your cloud provider

By Mike Bridges, IT Divisional Head at EBC Group

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Posted 30 Jan 2017

EBC Group understands that it’s a big step for your business to migrate some or all of your data and services to the cloud. When your business is deciding whether to store your services in the cloud it’s important to consider how your data is being stored and to find out as much as you can about the provider and data centres they use.

Below are 10 questions that you should consider when choosing a cloud provider.

1. Does the provider own their own data centres?

If the cloud provider does not own their own data centre then they and you will be relying on a third-party, which raises a number of risks to access the data. Such as, can they guarantee that the data is secure, what happens if something goes wrong- can they access the data immediately, what happens in the event of disaster such as fire?

A good provider should ideally have more than one data centre, making the over-all service secure and robust. If one data centre were to fail, you can be safe in the knowledge that any additional centre can still continue supporting your critical data.

Additional data centres will also provide the capacity to keep pace with your business if you choose to expand.

EBC Group own 2 secure dual data centres which we have immediate access to 24/7.

2. Where geographically are the data centres located?

Ideally, you want your provider to have direct access to their data centre, whether this is onsite or within easy reaching distance. Those providers who distance themselves from the centres are unable to physically access your data should they need too.

EBC Group’s data centres are onsite and maintained regularly by our in-house team of specialists.

3. What Tier Data Centre is it?

A four tier data centre provides a simple, but effective means for measuring different data centre infrastructure design, most importantly benchmarking standard needs. Indicating what requirements a data centre must comply to, its tiered system means it is easy to establish whether a particular data centre is suitable for your business needs.

Quite simply, the higher the tier the more stringent (and therefore secure) the data centre is. Tier 4 is usually the preserve of companies looking for the highest level of security, such as banking groups and military organisations.

To be secure you should be looking for a minimum of a tier 3. EBC Group operates as a tier 3 data centre.

4. Does the provider have direct physical access to the DataCentres?

Operating an in house data centre can have numerous advantages, including greater control, capacity, power and security. Direct physical access allows your provider a higher degree of control over facilities, ensuring the centre is secure, and that any issues are addressed with immediate effect.

Essentially, if your provider out-sources to a third-party, you are not only entrusting your sensitive data with the provider, but also a further source that you know very little about.

EBC Group has direct access to our duel data centres, running them directly from our premises in Halesowen and Northampton.

5. Do they own the hardware or are they just reselling someone else’s service?

It is common to find IT companies that are resellers of various hardware and software brands. Although some do offer a good range of services, your provider may not have control over a resold service, which means if anything goes wrong they are unable to do anything about it. Most importantly, if you wish to get hold of your critical data, you are obliged to go via a third party.

EBC Group is fully equipped with our own hardware, and does not out-source to a third party.

6. How often are they backed up?

Backups should be performed on a regular basis, and should be frequently carried out by your provider. EBC Group’s data centres are backed up in full each evening, and on request can be done so more frequently.

Every night as a minimum, or more depending on the requirements of our client.

7. What is their uptime or SLA (service level agreement)?

An SLA or ‘uptime’ is simply the contracted agreement that indicates what the provider is obliged to offer. A good provider should be able to address all aspects of hosted data centre services, such as network connectivity, power & cooling and server hardware.

EBC Group retain an industry leading uptime of 99.99962%

8. What security checks do they do?

In order to meet the changing requirements of compliance and data protection, data centres are now typically designed with perimeter security, access systems in to rooms, CCTV and locked cabinets as standard. However, it isn’t just physical checks that are considered important, but also the invisible checks on electronic security.

A reliable data centre provider should be carrying out regular penetration tests on your network firewall, helping to Improve and maintain security and access. Crucially a provider should be able to show evidence of these tests, in addition to the electronic security measures that are in place.

EBC Group is equipped with some the most up to date and secure technology to ensure our data centre stays fully protected at all times, allowing us to exceed industry standards.

9. Who can access the data centre? Who are the authorised personnel?

It is important to understand the levels of access given to the data centre by your provider. Quite simply, the higher the level of restriction and access, the higher the level of security and protection.

It is also important to question whether your provider allows other outside sources to access the data centre.

EBC Group has a handful of highly trained, certified and experienced on-site personnel with access to our data centre. No third parties have access to the centre, and a list of all employees with access can be given on request.

10. Do they have multiple independent network and power feeds to their infrastructure?

It is essential to confirm if your provider has multiple fibre and power leads. Multiple fibre leads ensures your provider and data centre are still able to operate in the event of roadwork damage to any fibre cabling. Whereas, multiple power feeds, preferably one from mains power and the other from a generator, will ensure that any downtime is counteracted by making a seamless switch automatically.

EBC Group have multiple fibre feeds to their data centre, including a Virgin and BT presence. We also have the means to switch to a powerful onsite generator in the unlikely scenario that we experience power loss, as well of having the support of an additional data centre for full backup and security.

Tags: Cloud Computing

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